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The 2005 Jeffrey M. Trent Lecture in Cancer Research

Oncogenes Come of Age!

Dr. Harold Varmus

On Tuesday, September 13, 2005 at 4:00 p.m, the third annual Jeffrey M.Trent Lecture in Cancer Research was presented by Dr. Harold Varmus, a 1989 Nobel Laureate in Physiology or Medicine, a former National Institutes of Health (NIH) director and currently the president of Memorial Sloan-Kettering Cancer Center. The lecture, entitled Oncogenes Come of Age! took place on the National Institutes of Health (NIH) campus at Masur Auditorium, NIH Clinical Center. A reception followed at the Visitor Information Center, NIH Clinical Center.

About the Lecturer

Harold Varmus, former Director of NIH and co-recipient of a Nobel Prize for studies of the genetic basis of cancer, has served as the President and Chief Executive Officer of Memorial Sloan-Kettering Cancer Center in New York City since January 2000.

Much of Dr. Varmus' scientific work was conducted during 23 years as a faculty member at the University of California, San Francisco, where he and Dr. J. Michael Bishop and their co-workers demonstrated the cellular origins of the oncogene of a chicken retrovirus. This discovery led to the isolation of many cellular genes that normally control growth and development and are frequently mutated in human cancer. For this work, Bishop and Varmus received many awards, including the 1989 Nobel Prize for Physiology or Medicine. Varmus is also widely recognized for his studies of the replication cycles of retroviruses and hepatitis B viruses, the functions of genes implicated in cancer, and the development of mouse models for human cancer (the focus of much of the current work in his laboratory at Memorial Sloan-Kettering Cancer Center).

In 1993, Varmus was named by President Clinton to serve as the Director of the National Institutes of Health, a position he held until the end of 1999. During his tenure at the NIH, he initiated many changes in the conduct of intramural and extramural research programs, recruited new leaders for most of the important positions at the NIH, planned three major buildings on the NIH campus, and helped to increase the NIH budget from under $11 billion to nearly $18 billion.

In addition to authoring over 300 scientific papers and four books, including an introduction to the genetic basis of cancer for a general audience, Varmus has been an advisor to the federal government, pharmaceutical and biotechnology firms, and many academic institutions. He served on the World Health Organization's Commission on Macroeconomics and Health, chairs the Board of Directors of Public Library of Science and the Scientific Board of the Grand Challenges in Global Health, and is involved in initiatives to promote science in other countries. He has been a member of the U.S. National Academy of Sciences since 1984 and of the Institute of Medicine since 1991.

A native of Freeport, Long Island, Varmus is the son of Dr. Frank Varmus, a general practitioner, and Beatrice Varmus, a psychiatric social worker. After graduating from Freeport High School, he majored in English literature at Amherst College and earned a master's degree in English at Harvard University. He is a graduate of Columbia University's College of Physicians and Surgeons, worked as a medical student in a hospital in India, and served on the medical house staff at Columbia-Presbyterian Hospital. His scientific training occurred first as a Public Health Service officer at the NIH, where he studied bacterial gene expression with Dr. Ira Pastan, and then as a post-doctoral fellow with Dr. Bishop at the University of California, San Francisco.

Learn more about Dr. Varmus

Dr. Harold Varmus, Nobel Prize in Physiology or Medicine 1989 []

The Jeffrey M. Trent Lectureship in Cancer Research

Dr. Trent was the National Human Genome Research Institute's (NHGRI) founding Scientific Director, serving in this role for more than nine years. His leadership and vision was instrumental in establishing NHGRI's Division of Intramural Research as one of the premier research programs in the world devoted to genetics and genomics. In recognition of his significant contributions to the research environment at NIH, NHGRI established the annual Jeffrey M. Trent Lecture in Cancer Research. This lecture is given by a prominent cancer researcher who brings the kind of energy, creativity and enthusiasm to cancer research that Dr. Trent has exemplified throughout his career.

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Last Updated: April 9, 2015